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Sales and marketing top concerns for small engineering firms

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Sales and marketing are currently the top business issues facing small engineering companies in the UK, a new survey suggests.

Research carried out by not-for-profit small business support group the Forum of Private Business found sales and marketing strategy is a priority for over one in five (26.1%) smaller firms in the engineering industry.

The second most common priority among small engineering firms was operations management, highlighted as an issue by 14.6% of respondents. HR-related issues, such as recruitment, training and employment law, were the third (13.4%).

Credit control was also a concern for many smaller engineers surveyed, with business owners citing chasing overdue payment as a major problem. The financial loss small engineers suffer when other companies go bust owing them money also emerged as a worry.

Forum chief executive, Phil Orford, said: "Getting sales and marketing right is crucial for small engineering companies – especially as they are acknowledged as one of the main sectors to lead the country to a sustainable private sector recovery.

"However, marketing often falls outside the skill-set the of many small business owners in the industry, leaving them unsure about how best to increase sales and grow. Similarly, owners of engineering companies can't be expected to be experts in the ins and outs of employment law or the criteria banks use when assessing a firm's viability for lending, so it's perhaps not surprising that these also emerged as concerns.

"That's where membership of an organisation like the Forum can help by providing expert support with sales and marketing, HR, credit control and every other aspect of running an SME in the engineering industry. As a result, we're currently in the process of contacting smaller engineering companies to see if we can help them with their current concerns and issues."

The Forum offers its members across the UK expert marketing support, advice and guidance through a partnership with strategic marketing network nxo. The Forum's paying members are also entitled to a free two-hour consultancy session with an nxo representative, which is designed to work out a company's needs, identify opportunities and make relevant recommendations.

The Forum, a not-for-profit organisation which was established in 1977, helps its members manage employees and comply with workplace law through services including a HR telephone helpline, an employment guide and downloadable HR templates.

One small engineering company which has benefited from Forum membership is Delta Design Systems. The highly successful Essex-based company was recently supported by the Forum in its efforts to secure bank lending to fund a multi-million pound contract to build power stations in Iraq, with the result that Conservative MP Brian Binley has taken up Delta Design's case at the Government's Business, Innovation and Skills Committee.

The Forum's research into small engineering companies reflects similar research the organization recently carried out into SMEs in the manufacturing industry. Sales and marketing, operations management and HR were also the top three priorities of smaller manufacturers surveyed earlier in the year.

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